Witness For The Prosecution

Pinellas County is not without precedent for controversies surrounding autopsies and smack in the middle of the case which precipitated the removal of former Pinellas County Medical Examiner Joan Wood and the appointment of Thogmartin is none other than McCabe, chairman of the medical examiner search committee and who appointed an interim medical examiner to serve for the period between the time Wood resigned and Thogmartin assumed the office.

Serving on the search committee with McCabe to handpick the county’s medical examiner was Rice.

Wood had been forced out of office in September 2000 after McCabe and his staff dropped charges against the Church of Scientology, blaming Wood’s reversal in her autopsy relating to the 1995 death of Scientologist Lisa McPherson, a case which had some shocking similarities to the Terri Schiavo case in that it was first determined that McPherson died of dehydration.

McPherson, 36, had died after a 17-day stay at the church’s spiritual headquarters in the Fort Harrison Hotel in Clearwater following an automobile accident.

According to records issued in the McPherson case, Wood and McCabe had tangled long before she reversed her autopsy findings and he helped force her out of office because he disapproved of her appearing on Inside Edition to discuss the McPherson case.

McCabe dropped felony charges of abuse of a disabled adult and practicing medicine without a license against the church. Wood had unexpectedly and without explanation changed her autopsy findings, saying that McPherson’s death was accidental and that “psychosis and history of auto accident” were significant conditions that contributed to her death. She expunged “bed rest and severe dehydration” from the initial autopsy which had been listed as underlying causes of death.